Modern society would probably appear incomprehensibly odd to our forebears. The global economy has transformed from farm-based to machine-based to mental-work-based, and our patterns of living have changed drastically with it. And they keep evolving at a rapid clip. It can take effort to keep adapting to it all.

One method that Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner uses to help himself in that endeavor is cross-pollination -- he's constantly looking to the works of other smart people for great new ideas he can bring into his life. In this Rule Breaker Investing podcast, he shares some of his favorite tips for winning in our thinking world, culled from four great authors, and one great sci-fi TV series' most terrifying villain. But this isn't the first time he's brought a "thinking world" theme to the podcast. Three years ago this month, Michael Bloomberg's 2016 commencement address at the University of Michigan led Gardner to ponder the idea that humanity is exiting the Industrial Age and entering the Information Age, which in turn made him think about which companies were best poised to benefit from that transition. He built a five-stock sampler around that concept, and this week, he'll tell you how it's doing.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on May 8, 2019.

David Gardner: Humans once primarily created value through our muscles. For 3,000 years, humankind had an economy based on farming. Till the soil, plant the seed, harvest the crop, hard to do, but fairly easy to learn. Well, that ended a few hundred years ago, when machines began doing that work for us. Today, most of the value you and I create, when you think about it, is through not our muscles, but our minds. As my friend Roy Spence says, dream it, build it. That is the wonderful world in which so many of us -- not all of us, but so many of us -- find ourselves in today. Dream it, build it. I like to call it a thinking world. 

On this podcast three years ago, this very week, I picked five stocks that I hoped would thrive in a thinking world. It was called "Five Winners in a Thinking World." How have they done? We will review.

But beyond that, I also want to help you think and consequently act smarter. It's one thing to find five winning stocks in a thinking world, it's another to try to help you win in a thinking world. Let's try to do both, only on this week's Rule Breaker Investing


Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing! I'm David Gardner. So glad to have you with us this week!

Three years ago this week, a few important things related to this podcast happened. One was that I picked five stocks, "Five Winners in a Thinking World." Part of this week's podcast will be reviewing those stocks. I have the wonderful Emily Flippen joining me a little bit later this podcast. Emily and I are going to talk through those five companies, how they've done. "Five Winners in a Thinking World," have they been winners? What can we learn from them? That's a big part of this week's podcast. 

But a couple of other things happened three years ago this week that made me want to do something different to start with. One of them was that I was recently reacting to a commencement speech given to the University of Michigan by Michael Bloomberg of New York City fame and Bloomberg, the company. He said some interesting things to those graduates that I'm going to recall for us and talk a little bit about that this week.

Also happening three years ago this week on this podcast, the first ad read in Motley Fool, at least Rule Breaker Investing podcast, history. The Motley Fool for years up to then had never had any ads on any of our podcasts. If you're a regular listener, you're probably used to brands like Rocket Mortgage -- which, for the record, was the first ad that I ever read on the show three years ago this week. I had also just been on a TV show. It was Wealthtrack on PBS with Consuelo Mack. That was also a week before three years ago this week. In fact, I'm just going to put it out there right now to you my listener, if you're interested, it was about a 26-minute interview and appearance. It's right out there on the internet if you just Google Consuelo Mack Rule Breakers. You'll find it. If anybody wants to take the time to watch that again, I'd be very curious, A, what did I get most right? And B, what did I get most wrong? In fact, if you want to have some fun with that and tweet us @RBIPodcast this upcoming week, maybe I'll include some of that in this month's mailbag toward the end of the month. If anybody wants to slog through a 26-minute interview that I did with Consuelo Mack, that was also happening three years ago this week. 

That's some of what was happening three years ago. But now I want to go back to that Bloomberg quote. I want to use it to frame up some of our conversation and thoughts this week. Here's what Mayor Bloomberg was saying three years ago, to the graduates of the University of Michigan. Just a short excerpt. He said, "For the first time in human history, the majority of people in the developed world are being asked to make a living with their minds rather than their muscles. For 3,000 years, humankind had an economy based on farming. Till the soil, plant the seed, harvest the crop. Hard to do, but fairly easy to learn. Then, for 300 years, we had an economy based on industry. Mold the parts, turn the crank, assemble the product. Hard to do, but also fairly easy to learn. Now, we have an economy based on information. Acquire the knowledge, apply the analytics, use your creativity. Hard to do, hard to learn. And even once you've mastered it, you'll have to start learning all over again pretty much every day."

I think that's a very apt reflection on where we are today as a species, and what the world needs of us. The world needs us to be winners in this increasingly thinking world. We need to add value using our minds. I wanted to use that as an opportunity to share with you a few insights that I have, hoping to make you a winner in our thinking world. I'm going to be drawing on some of my favorite concepts from a few of my favorite books. That's the focus of where we are right now. Then we'll have Emily in a little later and talk about those five winning stocks -- if they are, in fact, winning stocks -- in this thinking world. 

Five reflections, if you will, "Making You a Winner in Our Thinking World." Now, most of these are from my book learning. If you remember last year on the podcast, for August, we made that "Authors in August." That was the first year we'd done that in 2018 for Rule Breaker Investing. I had in some of my favorite authors of books that I'd primarily read the previous year or so. You may remember Amor Towles, the author of A Gentleman in Moscow. If you're just finding our podcast here a year later, you can go back and hear me interview one of the better novelists of our time about a wonderful book, A Gentleman in Moscow. That same month I also had Priya Parker talk about her wonderful book, The Art of Gathering. And just to keep things really motley and mix it up, Mark Penn came in and talked about his book Microtrends, looking at some of the key trends of the future. All of that was last August. In a way, I'm prepping you for this August, because I'm sure hoping to have at least one of the authors I'll be mentioning shortly on this podcast for our "Authors in August" 2019. 

Well, the first thought I wanted to share with you, the first good thinking tool for you, comes from somebody who's already been on this podcast, David Allen. For anybody who knows his work, Getting Things Done, GTD. There's a big community. If you just Google GTD, you're going to see a lot of people who follow David Allen's ideas. As I try to make you a winner in our thinking world, here's the first thing I wanted to just swipe from David Allen and share with you. He has many concepts I appreciate, but one of them is the two-minute rule. I think I can do this -- I sure hope so -- two minutes or less. David Allen's two-minute rule is simply this: If you can do it in the next two minutes, do it. A lot of us will walk past something in our house and think, "I really should take the garbage out," or have this quick thought reappear, like, "I should write that down on a Post-it note." And yet we don't. We walk past that un-taken-out garbage, or we don't write down that quick thought that we have. And we might forget it altogether; in which case, we're in trouble that we didn't take the garbage out, or we're sad we never wrote it down. Or, we write it down later. We keep rethinking the same thought until finally, we act. 

This is such a simple point, but it's profound. He says, literally, if you can do it in the next two minutes right now, do it. Corollary to that is, it has to be two minutes or less. If you start head faking yourself and say, "Well, that's a two-minute task," but it takes you four and a half minutes, then you'll start doubting yourself in future and start putting off and not using this rule because you'll think it actually takes more than two minutes, I'm not even going to bother with that approach anymore. No, it has to be two minutes or less. 

That simple rule has saved me all kinds of forgetfulness and increased my productivity since I first read it when I read his book, Getting Things Done, I think in the year 2003. 16 years later, here I am, leading off "Making You a Winner in Our Thinking World" with David Allen's wonderful, powerful two-minute rule. If you could do it in the next two minutes, just do it! Put things aside and get it done. You'll be happy you did. You don't have to keep that up in your gray matter and have it keep cycling and reminding you that you haven't done anything about it. 

To each of the authors I'll be sharing with you today, I say, thank you, David Allen!

All right, the next one is from a new author I've not yet met. I know some of you have read his wonderful book, Atomic Habits. James Clear. I really enjoyed reading his book in the last year, Atomic Habits. It's all about creating good habits and getting rid of bad habits and how really small changes that you make in your own thinking -- because that's where it starts, your thinking, and then, of course, your acting. The habits that we create for ourselves because darn it, we really are creating our own habits, if you change them, even in micro ways, all of a sudden the results that you can get can be profound. 

From James' book, I'd just like to pull this key insight, the four laws of behavior change. James writes, "This provides a simple set of rules for creating good habits and breaking bad ones. You can think of each law as a lever that influences human behavior. When the levers are in the right positions, creating good habits is effortless. When they're in the wrong positions, it is nearly impossible." To me, this is the key insight of his book. How to create a good habit, he's got four laws. The first: Make it obvious. The second: Make it attractive. The third: Make it easy. And the fourth, the reward part: Make it satisfying. 

James goes on to say, "We can invert these laws to learn how to break a bad habit." Here we go. How to break a bad habit, inversion of the first law: Make it invisible. Second: Make it unattractive. Third: Make it difficult. And finally, in the inversion of his fourth law: Make it unsatisfying. 

James' book, much like David Allen's book, is really here again to our theme, helping you think smarter and make winning decisions. A lot of that for a lot of us is getting rid of old habits or bad habits and replacing them with a better version of you. Because I can think of examples in my own life, I bet you can, too, and I can look at others and see people have really improved themselves over the course of life. Some people are almost addicted to doing that. It's wonderful to watch. Some people are just constantly learning and self-improving. If you have somebody like that in your life, it's a powerful force of influence for you or for me. But so much of our life, Clear points out, is ruled by habit, often unthinking habits. In fact, one of the things he says early in his book is, inventory your own habits. Go through a day, and just for the fun of it, write down everything you do habitually. For example, do you always brush your teeth right as you get out of bed? That would be an example. And just be self-conscious about your habits, good or bad, throughout a day. By collecting them in the first place, it enables you to reflect on them and think about how to improve.

Thank you, James Clear, for your book, Atomic Habits

All right, "Making You a Winner in Our Thinking World." Tip No. 3. This one comes from another excellent book and I'd love to have Warren Berger join me. I enjoyed his first book, A More Beautiful Question, and his follow-up to that book, which I've read in the past year, is The Book of Beautiful Questions, from which this short excerpt comes. Berger invites us to do something I've often tried to invite you to do, talking about investing on this podcast, and that is, don't be a binary thinker. Life isn't so often about yes or no. An example Berger gives in one of his chapters in The Book of Beautiful Questions, he says, let's pretend that you have problems with your boss. A lot of people would say things like, "Should I quit this business?" Yes or no? Binary. But there's almost always a third way, a new thought, a way to think differently, that isn't a yes or no. And so often, the Foolish answer, I think, lies in that third creative choice. 

The excerpt I'm sharing with you here, Berger shares, use these five questions to open up possibilities. The first is, how can I open up the question to be decided? He writes, "We have a tendency to make binary decisions -- yes or no, either/ or -- which limits options. Try using open-ended questions like, 'what are the best ways...' or 'how might I...' to frame your decision?" That's No. 1. No. 2, what is the great, the good, and the ugly? Warren writes, "When making decisions, try to choose from at least three options. Do this by projecting three different potential outcomes or scenarios. One very positive, one moderate, and one negative. Third, if none of the current options were available, what would I do?" Another beautiful question. He writes, "Imagine that the existing options you're deciding between suddenly have vanished. This forces you to try to come up with additional possibilities. Upon returning to reality, you can now weigh your newly imagined options against the existing ones." Fourth. "What is the counterintuitive choice? Include one option," as you're thinking through whatever problem you're thinking through, "that goes completely against the others. You probably won't choose it, but it stimulates unconventional thinking." And finally, fifth. "What would an outsider do? You can get an actual outsider to help answer this, or just try to look at the situation the way an outsider might."

That's the end of the excerpt from Book of Beautiful Questions by Warren Berger. I like that last one in particular. Sometimes I think about great leaders. For me, a lot of them are from the corporate world. I think about some of my favorite CEOs, somebody like Steve Jobs. I say, how would Steve Jobs approach this situation? How would Jeff Bezos try to solve that? How would, fill in the blank, anybody that you admire as a leader, approach the situation you're looking at? 

Thank you, Warren Berger, for your book, The Book of Beautiful Questions. Maybe we'll get to have Warren on in August. 

All right, "Making You a Winner in Our Thinking World" tip No. 4. This one's just about knowing yourself. Now unfortunately, I can't have the next author on our show because he's no longer living. Warren Bennis for almost 50 years was one of our best writers in the United States of America about leadership. He wrote a lot of good books about it. I've certainly quoted him before on Rule Breaker Investing. His book, On Becoming a Leader, is the one that I've read. Tip No. 4, it really is inspired by an epigraph, a lead-off quote to one of the chapters in his book On Becoming a Leader. The chapter is entitled "Knowing Yourself." And here it comes, from William James, the psychologist, the brother of the famed novelist Henry James. William James wrote this as Bennis quotes him. "I've often thought that the best way to define a man's character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it came upon him, he felt himself most deeply and intensely active and alive. At such moments, there is a voice inside which speaks and says, 'This is the real me.'" 

Every one of us is different. The real me contrasts, in marked ways, I'm sure, and connects in some similar ways with the real you, whoever you are. But it is often the goal to know ourselves. That is a lifelong journey for many of us. We change. The world makes us change. The world's going to keep changing, so you and I better try to change when we need to, whether in the business world, socially, culturally. But knowing ourselves. After all, I think it was on the Oracle of Delphi, I believe, scrawled there -- this might just be one of those old saws that wasn't actually true, but I think it's true, I think carved on the Oracle of Delphi in ancient Greece, was the phrase "know thyself," of course in Greek. Knowing yourself. In particular, when you think about, when do I feel "most intensively active and alive," that can often help guide you toward making the right decision for you and yours in this thinking world. A simple thought, but I hope a penetrating one. 

Oh! I see Emily Flippen on the other side of the glass! She's going to be coming in to do a stock review real soon. So here's No. 5. This one's just one of my personal favorites. In fact, it's a story I've told to some of our employees over the years. I'm going to tell it to you now and share it with you. It starts, like so many things that I love, rooted in a geeky world, in this case, the world of Star Trek

Now, if you're even more of a Trekkie than I am, I might be slightly butchering the story, but I am enough of a Trekkie that I feel comfortable briefly giving my view of the Borg, which at least in Star Trek: Next Generation, and maybe all Star Trek lore, is maybe the most feared of all aliens that we meet in the universe through all of the different Star Trek stories and lore. The Borg. The Borg are kind of cyborgs. They're part human, part machine. And when we first beam aboard their mothership and we find ourselves in a combat circumstance, one of the Star Trek ensigns -- I'm just going to say, one of the red shirts -- is walking along a tunnel somewhere in that mothership. The Borg are there walking just like you're passing somebody in a corporate office building or on the street, just walking right past them. In combat, we walk up and punch them. And right away, we connect, and that Borg falls over, short circuits, and presumably dies. It seems so easy. One punch, one hit, man down, keep moving. 

The problem is, when that same ensign then tries to do that to a second Borg, as soon as he or she throws the punch, a force field goes up right in front of that punch. So it fails. So, what is the answer? What would you or I do? We just pull out our phaser -- kind of like a laser gun -- and just shoot it. And sure enough, the Borg falls over, short circuits, and dies. No. 2 is down. So now you come up to No. 3 in this combat situation. Throw a punch, force field blocks. Pull out the phaser, uh-oh, different color force field just negated the phaser. Now you're trying to figure out how to fight the Borg. And why are the Borg the most feared species that we encounter through all of Star Trek? The answer is because they're all networked with each other. When any Borg learns anything, all of them learn at the same time what they need to do, so they progress and evolve together in a collective manner, which is devastatingly effective if you think about the power of networks. You're just an ensign with, unfortunately for you, a red shirt on a Star Trek episode. 

The way that I've turned that around and made that a business story for our employees here at The Motley Fool is, I've said, be the Borg. It's just fine to get knocked out by our first mistake. Somebody punches us, OK, we weren't expecting it, we go down. They pull out their laser, shoot us, sure. It's the first time we'd ever seen that out. Ouch. But when they try that again, I sure hope that you're learning. As a Motley Fool employee, I really want you to be learning, because you're on my team. We're trying to grow a company to make the world smarter, happier, and richer, so I sure hope you'll be learning. But for all of us, I think in a thinking world, tip No. 5 says, be the Borg. Be the Borg. That is, you can fail, but learn and be ready and grow. 

In fact, one of my very favorite websites is I encourage you, if you've never visited what I'm going to call one of my favorite websites, that you type that into your browser,, and enjoy that website. 

I hope you enjoyed my efforts to make you a winner in our thinking world. In fact, if any one of those five connected with you -- David Allen's two-minute rule, James Clear's how to create good habits and get rid of bad ones, Warren Berger's what if this isn't a yes or no decision, or William James reminding us through Warren Bennis to know thyself, or finally, be the Borg. If any one of those connected with you, then I feel really good about it, because each of those has been, for me, anyways, powerful learning leading to better activities. 

Well, Emily, as I've already mentioned, you're here to help us review five stocks picked three years ago this week, "Five Winners in a Thinking World." Now, when I did this list of stocks on May 4th of 2016, I was saying at the time, we're going to be picking these for three years. Now, everything we do really is for three-plus years. But if we kept holding all of these five-stock samplers, this podcast would be nothing but reviews one week after another. So this is, in fact, Emily, the end of covering "Five Winners in a Thinking World." This is their three-year birthday. Emily, three years ago, May 4th, 2016. What were you doing? 

Emily Flippen: I think I was really excited because I just got an offer from The Motley Fool to come in for an internship. I don't think I'd quite yet started. But I know that I got it and I was really pumped. 

Gardner: That's awesome! I'm so glad to know that's what was happening three years ago this week and your life. I've already shared a little bit about mine. So I think we can now move on from us to our stocks. And we've got five of them. And for each of these, I'll be reviewing briefly what the stock was, where it was, and where it is today. The numbers part of it. And then Emily, I've asked you, since the purpose of The Motley Fool is to make the world smarter, happier and richer, I would love it if you could make us smarter and happier about each of these five stocks. So maybe make us smarter, reflect on the three years, and pick out maybe something that really says why this stock did well or not. And then, how about a fun fact, something that makes us happier? And then we'll find out at the end whether these stocks made us richer or not as we do the results. Sounds good? 

Flippen: That sounds great!

Gardner: Let's do it! OK. The first stock up three years ago this week was Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG). The ticker symbol is CELG. This is a company that on that day was just below $101. It was $100.90 a share. Today as we tape this podcast the afternoon of Tuesday, May 7th, it's at about, I'm sorry to say, $95 a share. Celgene is down 5.5% over these three years. Here's what really hurts for stock market investors who may have followed my advice three years ago: The market is up exactly 40%. We're taping on a date -- pretty bad, the Nasdaq's down about 2% today. It's 2% less. But still up 40% over the last three years. So this stock is 46% behind the market. Emily, this stock has not made us richer, but could you make us smarter and happier about Celgene?

Flippen: I think Celgene, regardless of whether or not you're an investor who may be bought in and lost about 5% there, has made us smarter. It's not just because of all the research that they've done into their cancer treatment drugs. I think it's the way that it really opened up the biopharmaceutical industry. I mean, it was kind of the first play that was integrated. It had so many different components to its business. And for a long time, a lot of investors' first step into biopharmaceuticals. Now it feels like every other week in Rule Breakers, at least, we see a different company coming out that's doing something revolutionary and amazing in the space of biopharmaceutical. So in a way, it was an anchor for a lot of investors when looking at investing in the biopharmaceuticals space. And just because Celgene maybe didn't perform the best, I know there are a handful of other companies that came after it, trying to get after very similar things, in the way that they conduct research and create products. 

I think that ultimately, we can all come out of it a little bit smarter. 

Gardner: I appreciate that point very much. It is, I guess, in a way, even though it is a loser, it's consoling to know that it did make the world smarter. And apparently it made Bristol-Myers pretty interested because Celgene, part of the reason you're using the past tense, Emily, is that Bristol-Myers contracted to buy this company out. That's something that happened just a few months ago. The price is, well, around where it is right now, which is why the stock's trading there. It's a $74 billion buyout, one of the bigger buyouts in pharma history. Celgene didn't exactly fully, in a way, last these three years. It did decline those first couple, so we were sitting on a loser. It got bought out at a premium, but still below where I talked about it three years ago this week. 

I'm a little sad about Celgene for a few different reasons. I really appreciate all the inroads they've made to go after blood cancer. It's great work, and it's obviously very valuable. About $75 billion or so, Bristol-Myers says. But Emily, can you make me a little happier about Celgene? 

Flippen: Well, there's a lot of things to be happy about for Celgene. Going beyond their products, which I'm sure have made a lot of people happier who had the unfortunate exposure to things like blood cancer, whether themselves or through their family or loved ones, Celgene as a business actually makes me happy. It's because it's not well known that Celgene has continuously been ranked as one of the best places to work internationally, especially in the biopharmaceutical industry. They have an extremely robust CSR program --

Gardner: Corporate social responsibility. 

Flippen: Exactly. They really see themselves not as a company that's out there to make money even though clearly they are. They see their bigger obligation to humanity, which is really saying something in the environment that we're seeing today with a lot of these companies, which we now are seeing dragged in the water because they're preventing treatment from being sent out to people. The fact that Celgene has taken the high road in a lot of regards is really nice. 

Gardner: All right, well, thank you! That was stock No. 1. Great to hear! Emily, let's go to stock No. 2. Ticker symbol is well known to many longtime investors and Rule Breaker Investing listeners. The ticker symbol is DIS. The company is Disney (NYSE:DIS). A company that has a ton of properties, data. A lot of our thinking, in many ways, is driven by a company like Disney. I've noticed some people have been focused on the Avengers: Endgame. When we talk about a thinking world, a lot of people are thinking just about the biggest box office hit of all time, which is still in early days for Disney. But of course, it's about a lot more, not just superheroes, but businesses than that. 

Walt Disney was at $103.67 three years ago this week. As we do this podcast, I have it just over $134 a share. Hey, great news, right? Up 29.5%, we'll round that to 30%. Bad news, though, the market up 40%. Disney up 30%. So, "Five Winners in a Thinking World," so far, we've got two losers. Emily, make us smarter about Disney. 

Flippen: Well, it's a good lesson to be learned from Disney that sometimes the best-run companies, doing the best things in the world that you love the most, may not outperform the market. It's a reminder that smart investors take that three years is not a long enough time horizon. That's purely because I don't think there's a single person looking at Disney in the state that it's in today and thinks, "This isn't going to continue to do amazing things in the future." Whether you bought in three years ago, or you're buying in today, I mean, this is such a well-run company. We can all be a little bit smarter to not be latched onto these historical biases, this small underperformance when in reality, you see the opportunity clearly before your eyes with a company like Disney. 

Gardner: Thank you! And you're right. And I'm so glad you emphasize that. This five-stock sampler, "Five Winners in a Thinking World," just because we're ending it this week, because that's how long the game was being played on this podcast over the last three years, doesn't mean that we don't still love these companies, admire them, and think great things about them. Had we done this the three or so years before, I bet Disney would have been a winner over those three years. I sure hope it'll be a winner over the next three years. But by no means does our interest or belief in any of these stocks end with this podcast. Quite the opposite. They all remain active recommendations in Motley Fool Stock Advisor or Motley Fool Rule Breakers

I think in a lot of ways, Disney makes us happier. I think that's at the heart of its brand. Emily, can you make us a little happier about Disney? 

Flippen: It's so hard to choose one thing about Disney that can make me or an investor, anybody in the world, a little bit happier. But I keep going back to Disney+. Maybe that's just because it's very topical right now. I don't have kids. But I imagine if I was a parent to young kids, there'd be nothing in this world that made me happier than Disney+. To be able to have an essentially unlimited supply of family-friendly content that you can plop them down in front of and feel totally comfortable with that decision...I mean, it makes me project a little bit into that state. But if I were a parent, I would feel very happy. 

Gardner: Well, certainly the stock market has not failed to notice that Disney+ will be coming out later this year. It's not yet a present reality. But in some ways, Disney's stock reacted really positively in its most recent earnings report. I think the stock popped over 10% in a single day as Bob Iger began to talk more about Disney+. Everybody knows it's coming. Yes, I still love Netflix, too. I don't think these things are opposed. It's a thinking world, and these kinds of companies and brands all do well in my experience. It'll be really interesting to watch. Thank you for highlighting Disney+.

All right, Emily, stock No. 3. Now, spoiler alert, things are about to get better with this five-stock sampler. Because after all, the purpose of Motley Fool, Emily, is to make the world smarter, happier, and what?

Flippen: Richer!

Gardner: Let's hope so! This company, I can say, has done so. This is a market-beater, company No. 3. The ticker symbol is SPLK. The company is Splunk (NASDAQ:SPLK). Three years ago this week, it was at $48.87. At the close on May 4th, really happy to let you all know that it's at about $130 a share right now as we talk. Just short of $130 a share. I have it then up 166%. The stock market up 40%, so we can put a big plus 126% in the win column. One hundred and twenty-six points ahead of the S&P 500. And if you compare the previous two stocks, which were a minus 46, reviewing quickly, a minus 46 and a minus 10, and you do the math with me, 126 minus 56 looks like a plus 70 right now as we look over these three stocks.

Emily, make us smarter about what's been happening over these last three years with Splunk. 

Flippen: Well, Splunk has made all of us aware, gave us information to what a zettabyte is. David, do you know what is a zettabyte is?

Gardner: I'm going to say it's a ton of data, but that's about as far as I can go. 

Flippen: A zettabyte is one billion terabytes. One terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes. So you can get an idea about how Splunk is making us smarter. Splunk sees the 44 zettabytes, which I don't even know how to do that math quickly in my head, this huge amount of data.

Gardner: I'm glad you know it's 44, not 40, no round number here.

Flippen: Somebody at Splunk found that number, with all the universe of information that we have out in the world, and they're making sense of it. That makes us all a little bit smarter. 

Gardner: So you're saying, Emily, that the world's data at this point equals 44 zettabytes?

Flippen: By 2020, the world's information will equal 44 zettabytes. 

Gardner: OK, great! You know, Splunk, I'm going to supplement your smarter lesson with a little bit more smarter. This was kind of interesting to note. Splunk had been a losing stock the one year leading up to when I picked it three years ago. The three years leading up to it, it had also been a loser stock. It had IPO'd not that far before. It had a big initial IPO. But then it just dawdled for a while. So, I'm so happy to think that we did pick it three years ago this week, because it's gone from basically about $50 to about $130 over these three years, and shows that often, the winners win out there. And it is a winning company. 

Thank you for making us smarter! How about, make us a little happier when we think about Splunk?

Flippen: Splunk is subtle happiness. It's that happiness that you feel when you wake up in the morning and you see a nice sunrise, you see the birds tweeting. You don't know exactly what it is, but it makes you happy. Let me name a couple of companies that maybe conduct this happiness for you, because they're all Splunk customers. Splunk makes all these customers run and make you happy. Do you like Yelp

Gardner: I do like Yelp!

Flippen: Zillow (NASDAQ:Z) (NASDAQ:ZG)?

Gardner: Sure!

Flippen: Groupon?

Gardner: I know it.

Flippen: Coke?

Gardner: Coke makes me happier than Groupon, personally. I'm referring to Coca-Cola. 

Flippen: Yes, Coca-Cola. The only thing that's important to me is the fact they help Domino's run their information system. 

Gardner: I transacted with Domino's last night.

Flippen: And that's a vital part of my everyday life, for better or worse. So, Splunk, I like to think, makes a lot of people happier without them quite realizing that Splunk is in fact making them happier. 

Gardner: Love it! Yeah, it's a great company! Of course, we like it a lot for the next three years, but we're going to stop tracking it with this five-stock sampler as of this podcast. That leaves us with two final stocks to talk about, Emily. One thing I want to say about these two companies is they both have silly names. There's Splunk and the next two. Since we named our company The Motley Fool, an inherently silly name, especially in the area of finance, you can see that I'm probably a little bit of a sucker for companies that have silly names. So Splunk, probably playing into my subconscious, part of the reason I picked it three years ago or years before that for Rule Breakers, is because I like the silly. I like the happy and silly. So, let's next go to some more silly. Stock No. 4, the ticker symbol, tell me if you can guess the company name from this ticker symbol: TWTR. I think a lot of us, even if you're not an investor, maybe you can guess along with me. Twitter (NYSE:TWTR). Stock No. 4 was Twitter. Three years ago this week, Twitter was just below $15 a share. $14.84. It should be noted that it had lost 70% of its value in the years leading up to our picking it three years ago this week. It had lost 70% of its value, down to $14.84. As we speak now, it's at about $38.50. Twitter, therefore, is up 160%. Again, the stock market, up 40% over these three years. So that's up 120%, making me really happy that we found some winners in this thinking world. 

Emily, looking back over three years now, thinking big picture about Twitter, make us smarter. 

Flippen: Well, there's so many ways that Twitter makes everybody a little bit smarter. That might sound counterintuitive right now, especially with all the noise we hear about these fake accounts, information privacy. But Twitter is doing something that's really revolutionizing the way that we learn and consume information. It's democratizing information. It's making people smarter by increasing responsibility, by increasing accessibility. And that, to me, is probably the most strong value proposition at a company like Twitter. This access to information, it's unprecedented. Even in the internet age, having a Twitter, using a Twitter, accessing people over Twitter, that type of level has really never been seen before. 

Gardner: I agree. And certainly many of us who love a celebrity or an athlete, we can follow them on Twitter. And really, in a lot of ways, we might in some cases be following their social media manager. Some others are more authentic than that. Side note, I'm a small presence on Twitter, but I just tweet myself. I mean, there are no social media managers here guiding Motley Fool advisors' accounts. That said, whether it's a celebrity, an athlete, or how about the authors that I referenced earlier this podcast? James Clear, Atomic Habits. I follow him on Twitter. I follow David Allen on Twitter. I follow Warren Berger, the author of The Book of Beautiful Questions on Twitter. So yeah, we can follow the people that interest us and hear how they're thinking about the world. Definitely making us think-ier in a thinking world. 

Emily, how about a fun fact? Something to make us happier about Twitter?

Flippen: I actually don't have a Twitter account. I really should. 

Gardner: That's a fun fact! Why not?

Flippen: It is a fun fact. I'm not sure if that makes anybody happier. But what will make people happier, and what made me happier, even though I don't have a Twitter account, is last week seeing MercadoLibre have a spiffy pop, and seeing the number of people that both tweeted at The Motley Fool, tweeted at you, all of these happy investors, who had bought MercadoLibre's stock on our recommendation, having a spiffy pop last week. Twitter made that accessible, and that made me happy. 

Gardner: That made me happy, too! I really appreciate you pointing that out. I'd forgotten to thank all of our listeners and those who did tweet out to @RBIPodcast and @TheMotleyFool, a much bigger Twitter account for The Motley Fool, and reflected on their happiness and joy around watching MercadoLibre, which I think went up about 21% or so that day in one day. But for those of us who've bought and held it a long time, it's not in this five-stock sampler, it's been in some others, but more importantly, it's been a part of Rule Breakers for more than a decade now. And we all made more money in that one day than we had paid for it way back when. That's what a spiffy pop is, a term that I want every Rule Breaker investor to know. Something we talk about probably not enough on this show. But thank you for pointing out that spiffy pop. It was a very happy day. 

Flippen: It was.

Gardner: And it was made happier by Twitter. You're absolutely right, Emily, because otherwise I wouldn't have heard that, I wouldn't have known that. And so yeah, that makes me happier! OK, good!

Well, we're going to get to stock No. 5 now, and I'm going to pre-empt any suspense here. I'm going to let you know up front that this stock also lost to the market. It was a disappointment. But good news, take this five-stock sampler together and we crushed the market once again with this five-stock sampler. Even more meaningful since this is the last time we'll ever talk about it. We're waving goodbye to it. We're sun-setting "Five Winners in a Thinking World." Stock No. 5 was one of three losers in a thinking world. The stock was still up. The ticker symbol is Z, and the company, we've already talked about a little bit is, Zillow, another really silly name like Splunk and Twitter and The Motley Fool. Zillow three years ago this week was just over $28 a share. It's now $33.63 as we tape. It's up 20%. The market is up 40% so it's a minus 20. Right at the end, I'll give the final numerical take on the overall performance of this five-stock sampler, but let's focus on Zillow for a sec. Emily, we talk about Zillow some on the Rule Breakers team. It's one of our probably more widely owned Rule Breakers. It's a stock that I own. I'm obviously a little disappointed that it's been an underperformer over these last three years. Why? 

Flippen: Zillow had a bit of a challenge, you could say, with its business model, particularly making money off of its business model. But Zillow recently has been a stock of a little bit more controversy here at The Motley Fool because they're changing their business model. They're changing their business model to make homebuying a little bit easier. And so while many people are rubbed the wrong way by that, and I will be the first one to say that I was one of those people, a number of people here see this outdated, dying industry and they think, "Wow, Zillow could really do something! There's a lot of potential there!"

Gardner: Because Zillow's business when we picked the stock three years ago was largely based on realtors, real estate professionals, taking out ads, advertising themselves in their zip code for the houses that you might be looking to buy. That was the bread and butter. Definitely a data-heavy company. I'm not sure any of those full zettabytes are Zillow's, but if you think about all the data, pricing and having specifications around all the properties, just residential properties here in the United States, for one, that's a ton of data. It was more a data business. But as you point out, Emily, this is a company that is now buying houses themselves and becoming a real estate-owning company. That's a real shift in the business model. 

Flippen: You could say that it's made us smarter by showing that businesses can change. They continue to change. As long as you have a long-term outlook, there's always going to be value behind what these businesses do, whether that be collect data or take out advertisements. You can't ever discount a business because the ability to change and innovate is always going to be inherent. But the one way that I think Zillow has really made someone I know smarter, is our recent new hire on the candidate side of our investing team, Joey, who used Zillow to look at and eventually purchase a house here in the area. Almost bought a house, but looked on Trulia, a Zillow platform, and saw the crime rates in one of the areas he was looking. Having never visited the area before, didn't know anything about the crime rates. He was immediately smarter. Immediately thought, "I don't think I want to buy that house anymore." And because of Zillow, because of their platforms, he was able to get a house he loves now that he never, before buying, even stepped into.

Gardner: That's great example! I'm so happy to know that Joey found a house more to his liking. And I think he did. As a new employee, I think he's moved into the area, which I think means Joey's around here for a while.

Flippen: Yeah, not going anywhere!

Gardner: Speaking of change, I also want to point out that Rich Barton has now returned to become the CEO of Zillow, another change, having replaced Spencer Rascoff, who was running the company last few years somewhat successfully, especially early on, but not as successfully. Obviously, a market loser here over the last three years. I think it's very promising to have Rich Barton back. We'll see how things play out from here. 

OK, so I hope we made our listeners a little smarter about Zillow. It's a stock that I still favor and own. And Emily, you're not as big a fan, which is fine; it takes two to make a market. We'll see. You were certainly right the last three years. I wish I'd listened to you as a summer intern, summer 2016, when you were probably talking daggers about Zillow. But, no, more seriously, how about a fun fact? Make us happier about, in this case, current underperformer? 

Flippen: Well, Rich Barton has one job, and he says he's going to make your life happier by making home buying and home selling easier. If he's able to succeed on that, I think all of us will be a little bit happier. The process as it is today is complicated, long, and full of unnecessary fees. If there's a way that Zillow and Rich Barton, with all of his amazing vision, can come in and smooth that process, maybe three years from today, we're all happier because of Zillow.

Gardner: Well, I sure hope so! In many cases, whether we recommend our own stock or not, we're wanting better things for the world in which we all live. Competition in capitalism, sometimes viewed as negative, but I think it's pretty great. I'm glad that Redfin exists, or Trulia used to compete with Zillow. Competition often forces people to become better and usually the winners win in the marketplace, and we all win as investors of these companies. Well, thank you Emily, for joining in!

Let's just talk up the final numbers for this set of five stocks, this five-stock sampler, "Five Winners in a Thinking World," dated May 4th, 2016. You can go back and listen again to that original show where I picked the stocks and share my thinking. But I'm really happy to say as a group, they're up 74% on average, the market up 40% on average. Therefore, plus 34% per stock. Seventy-four percent against 40%. I would say even though some of them weren't winners, we really did win on behalf of our listeners with "Five Winners in a Thinking World."


Gardner: All right, well, thus it was for "Making You a Winner in Our Thinking World." The first half of this podcast, thoughts for you. The second half, reflections on companies that prospered, have prospered, in this thinking world. 

Next week, a horse of a different color, although in a lot of ways, it's consistent with what we did this week. I'm going to have Phil de Picciotto, who helped found the sports agency, Octagon, a visionary in the industry. He's going to share some of his entrepreneurial experiences. I'm also going to be asking him about the future of sports, how television is going to change or not the future of sports, what it means for salaries, the size of stadiums. Phil is a visionary. If you're a sports fan, I certainly am, you're really going to enjoy the show. But even if you're not a sports fan, but you're thinking about the future of business, we're going to help you think smarter about the world of sport. 

So thanks for listening! Have a great week in our thinking world, and Fool on!

As always, people on this program may have interest in the stocks they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don't buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear. Learn more about Rule Breaker Investing at

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.